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Hit the Road with Chet Garner

Extracurricular Activities

A small-town schoolhouse is now a community-focused brewhouse

For most people—including me—the idea of going back to school sends shivers down their spine. But what if the curriculum consisted of craft beer, live music and scratch-made food? That sort of school would have a waitlist the length of the Rio Grande. Lucky for all of us, this sort of continuing education actually exists near San Angelo at Farm Ale Brewing Co., inside an old schoolhouse in Eola. Class is in session!

Eola is a rural community surrounded by cotton fields as far as the eye can see. Its downtown consists of a few blocks, three churches and a single school building that for decades housed every grade in the public system—kindergarten through 12th. The school closed in the 1980s and sat vacant until 2006, when a group of thirsty Texans decided to turn it into a craft brewery. After all, turning grains into beer is a very scientific process.

I stepped inside and was immediately hit with a wave of nostalgia that was even stronger than the smell of fermenting grains. The bones of the old school are still intact. The classrooms are now dining rooms with chalkboards and flags. The wood-floored gymnasium is now full of family-friendly games, and the auditorium houses the entire production process, from brewing to canning. Farm Ale Brewing Co. brews its beer with as many local ingredients as possible and even gives a percentage of profits back to local farmers.

The biggest upgrade came to the school cafeteria, which now serves up incredible pizza, smash burgers and rotating specials such as meatloaf. Just like in my school days, I polished off my plate in record time and then headed to the schoolyard for recess—with the added bonus of live music.